The History of the Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, Part II - Pages 6 - 10

Biographies for Christoph Rodenbach, John Welker, Barbara Welker, Heinrich Breitwieser, Frank Bissing, Friedrich Wedell, Jacob Beyer, Caroline Beyer, John Walkam, Mrs. Mary Walkam, Florence Walkam, Charles J. Walkam, Andrew Simson, and Friedrich C. Pries.


Christoph Rodenbach

was born on March 26, 1826 in Bodenheim in the Rhein-Hessen Province. He took his first instruction at the school in which his father taught. He later took private instruction in Kreuznach to complete his education. The young man wished to become a merchant and dedicated himself to the study of that trade in places where wares of all kinds could be procured. He had the opportunity to acquire a multifaceted education in merchandising. When his training years were over he was involved for more years in the textile * trade in Marburg and Bingen on the Rhine. Wanderlust soonafter overcame the young man. He left for America on April 23, 1848 and arrived in New York on June 1, 1848. He remained there for only one day, then came to Buffalo, arriving here on June 9th.

Soon after he settled in Buffalo he established himself in a textile store on Main Street but he left there after a short time to join his uncle, Conrad Hellriegel, at a dry goods store on Main Street at Goodell. Later the uncle turned the business over to his son. The cousin went into partnership with Rodenbach. The partnership lasted until 1851. Mr. Rodenbach then opened a business himself, based on the models he had studied during his apprenticeship years. He was thus employed until 1865, when he sold the business. In 1866 he opened an apothecary shop in the same store and remained there until 1882 when he sold it. In the interim he built a house at the corner of Main and Allen Streets. In 1876 he opened a new, very elegant apothecary shop at that location, which he retained until 1896. In 1896 he decided to retire, so he sold the business. As a businessman, Mr. Rodenbach has had an impact on the development of Buffalo's commerce. Since 1868 he has been one of the trustees of the Buffalo Savings Bank and from 1894 to present he has been the Vice-President of this institution. He's also been an alderman of the 6th Ward. In 1848 Mr. Rodenbach married Miss Catharine Hellriegel, who bore him 2 children, one of whom still lives. She died after a long illness in 1867. After her death Mr. Rodenbach travelled back to Europe. After his return he married Miss Caroline Holser, with whom he had 5 children, 4 of whom still live. Mr. Rodenbach currently lives at 423 Richmond Avenue.

John Welker

was born on June 18, 1824 in Kastel near Trier. After attending school in his hometown he learned iron casting. He came to the United States in 1850 as a mould maker. In 1854 he opened a grocery store at the corner of Ash and Sycamore, which he moved in 1866 to the corner of Genesee Street and Jefferson Avenue. His restless energy combined with a sharp business sense, diligence and frugality helped the business flourish. Within a few years the store was counted among the most significant in the city. Mr. Welker helped to establish the Erie County Mutual Fire Insurance Company and was a member of the first Board of Directors. He was a sponsor of the German community's greatest effort's. He was an active member of the Sängerbund and the Orpheus singing societies and he was a life-long member of the German Young Men's Association. In the same year that Mr. Welder opened his own business, 1854, he brought Miss Barbara Kuhn of Williamsville home as his bride. From this union there resulted the following children: Otto F. Welker, Peter J. Welker, Barbara Welker, Mary Sarbin, Amelia Fleiner, and Lillie Mumm. Mr. Welker never held public office and he considered being a businessman a truly enviable profession. Mr. Welker reached the age of 66 when he died on September 5, 1890. A few months later on June 15, 1891 his loyal wife followed after him.

Barbara Welker,

nee Kuhn, was born on March 24, 1834 in Otzenhausen near Trier. After her arrival in the United States she settled in Williamsville, Erie County. In 1835 she married Mr. John Welker. She has 6 children still living. Mrs. Welker died not quite one year after her husband on June 15, 1981.

* The term used in German is "Ellenwaaren", which originally meant goods which could be measured from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow and usually referred to cloth or draperies. In German spoken in America in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, it referred to all manner of dry goods or household goods. There's more confusion in the next paragraph with the use of the word "Materialwaaren", which could mean household goods, yard goods, or even groceries in some dialects. Return to text


Heinrich Breitwieser

was born on July 31, 1837 in Nieder-Klingen, part of the Hessen-Darmstadt area. He attended a Protestant church school. Afterward he worked as a farmer. He later learned cigar-making, a trade to which he has remains true to this day. He's done well by it. In 1855 he emigrated to America, arriving in New York on June 8th and in Buffalo on June 10th. He conducts his trade from his burgeoning facility at 454 Main Street. Mr. Breitwieser is considered among the most prominent of Buffalo's German businessmen. He is highly esteemed and beloved. He's also well thought of in business circles and has to this day been regularly involved in the topics significant to the German community. His advice has been sought in politics. Since 1889 he has been City and County Commissioner of Public Buildings. He was married to Maria L. Schänlin from January 3, 1867 to July 28, 1881. Four children, all of whom are still living, sprung from the marriage. On January 29, 1884 he married Louise Stroh, widowed name Neubauer. The union is blessed with one child. Mr. Breitwieser lives at 583 Ellicott Street.

Frank J. Bissing,

one of the best known of the younger German-Americans, was born on October 25, 1855 in Buffalo. He attended the German St. Mary's School and Empire College. After graduation he learned the real estate and insurance business in all its peculiarities. He's successfully employed at that profession to this day. Along with the boom in this city's business activities, Mr. Bissing takes part in politics. Several times the citizenry has entrusted him with political office. He was an alderman for the 7th Ward in 1892-93. He was elected councilman for a four year term in 1897. F.J. Bissing is married to Gertrude C. Terhaar. They have 6 children - 3 boys and 3 girls. He lives at 384 Clinton Street. You'll find his business at 208 Broadway.

Friedrich Wedell,

one of the best known German businessmen on the East Side, was born on February 27, 1845 in Sulzbach, Bavaria. After receiving a fine education at the local school, he learned the pastry trade. He is employed in that field to this day. He came to America in 1869, stayed for a year in Patterson, New Jersey, and then settled in Buffalo. He established a successful business here in 1878. He has regularly been involved in affairs concerning the German community and for that reason he is much esteemed and loved. He is married to Antoinette Groning. The marriage produced 7 children. Two sons and two daughters still live. You'll find his home and business at 275 Genesee Street.


Jacob Beyer

is one of the oldest and most respected residents of this city. Mr. Beyer was born on September 23, 1820 in Gundershofen, Alsatia. He came to America when he was 8 years old and settled in the "German Village" with his relatives. The boy attended the local schools. After gaining the necessary education he became a merchant. His first position was at Colton's, a dry goods store ("Materialgeschäft") at the corner of Main and Genesee Streets. Later he worked as an assistant to Millard Fillmore then as an assistant at Howard & Whitcomb's, a general merchandising establishment. The talented young man's drive enabled him to become a partner in a textile business ("Ellenwaarengeschäft") under the firm name of Georger & Beyer. Later Mr. Beyer took full control of the store and placed the business under his own name. It remained that way until his death in 1881. Naturally Mr. Beyer took part in the progression and development of the German community. Primarily he assisted in the establishment of the German Young Men's Association in 1841. He was a true and active memeber of the Association. Even with his primary occupation he managed to set aside enough time he attend to the common good of the young city of Buffalo. He was not only a director of the German Fire Insurance Company but a director of the Buffalo Savings Bank. These were two highly responsible positions in which he conducted himself knowledgeably and productively. Mr. Beyer also played an active role in politics. He was elected Alderman for his Ward for the first time in 1859 and again in 1866. From 1872 to 1879 he was Police Commissioner and Treasurer of the Police Board. On February 27, 1849 he entered the bonds of matrimony with Miss Caroline Rinck. Seven children came from the union. Five still live. The last family residence of Mr. Beyer was at 596 Ellicott Street. The city's remembrance of Mr. Beyer is one of respect and admiration because of his strong support and promotion of the German community, and because of the part he played in bringing business sense to the city, and lastly because of his spotless record as a politician.

Caroline Beyer, nee Rinck

was born on September 9, 1827 in Vonberg at Kaiserlautern in the Rheinland Palatinate. She is the daughter of Wilhelm Rinck and Elizabeth Diehl and came to New York with her parents when she was 3 in 1830. Scarcely 6 weeks after their landing the family came to Buffalo and lived on Pearl Street near Tupper and then on Genesee Street near Jefferson. Caroline Rinck received an excellent education at Schreck's School. On February 27, 1848 she married Jacob Beyer, with whom she lived in marital bliss until his death. She has 7 children, of whom 5 still live - 4 sons and 1 daughter. Mrs. Beyer lives at 596 Ellicott Street.

.John Walkam

was born on July 26, 1828 in what was then the Rheinland Palatinate city of Germersheim. Many remarkable historical events have since gone on within the walls of this city. Mr. Walkam attended what was then a public school. It's now a grammar school. After his schooling he studied tailoring, an occupation which he conducted for 5 years. In 1846 the 18-year-old came to the United States and in October of the same year arrived in Buffalo. When California Gold Fever broke out he went to the promised land on the Pacific Coast in 1856 and took part in mining. Thirteen years later, in 1866, he returned to Buffalo and entering in partnership with a lumberyard owner, built a planing mill. This business remained under his direction until 1895, when he retired. Mr. Walkam, who lives at 735 Ellicott Street, married Miss Mary Willyoung on May 3, 1872. Two children came from the union. Both are still living.

Mrs. Mary Walkam,

the daugher of Michael Willyoung and his wife, Margarethe, was born on March 26, 1847 in the vicinity of Bowmansville in Erie County. She attended the district school. On May 3, 1872 she married John Walkam, with whom she has had a happy marriage and by whom she had 2 children. She lives at 735 Ellicott Street.

Florence Walkam

is the only daughter of John Walkam. She was born on February 20, 1873 in Buffalo. She attended Public School 15 as did her brother. She then took instruction at Bryant and Stratton Business Academy. Since June 16, 1896 she has been married to Charles Fiadd and has lived in Rochester, New York. The marriage has produced one child.

Charles J. Walkam

is the son of John Walkam and was born on July 17, 1876 in Buffalo. He attended Public School 15 and then spent a year at the DeVeaux College near the Suspension Bridge. After that he concluded his last year of courses at Bryant and Stratton Business Academy, where he managed through his perseverance and his achievement to gain the attention of all his teachers and fellow students. At present he is in the laundry business. He's been married to Grace Schauermann since January 27, 1897. He makes his home at the family estate at 735 Ellicott Street.

.Andrew Simson

was born on February 9, 1837 in Gaenheim, Bavaria. He came to the United States in the Spring of 1847. At the beginning of 1848 he came to Buffalo with his parents. He attended the public schools and received a general education. At the end of his schooling he became a printer's apprentice at The Democrat and from there became a book printer. He later got a job in the printing department of the Express. He worked there until 1861, at which time he gave up the trade and took up the photographic profession. He's been employed in the field ever since. The firm, at which Mr. Simon works and from whose studios a large portion of the portraits in this book have been taken, is famous throughout the state for its artistically produced pictures. It has won awards for its work. Mr. Simson played a large part in the firm's success. There are few photographs in the city which can so artistically portray nature and few photographers with the knowledge to accomplish the task. The photographic studio of Simson and Beach, located at 456 Main Street, is a true art gallery. Mr. Simson belongs to the German Young Men's Association as a lifetime member. He's also a member of the Buffalo Library Association. He is married to Mary Upson. They have one daughter and live at 5 North Pearl Street.

Friedrich C. Pries

was born on July 26, 1849 in Rostock in Mecklenburg-Schwerin. After getting the necessary education at the town school, he worked at various jobs and eventually became a tailor. He learned the tailoring trade at the famous Klemm Academy in Dresden in 1857 and then began his journeymanship. In 1864 he came to America and immediately thereafter came to Buffalo. He's been here ever since. Mr. Pries has been self-employed since 1880 and has for the past 13 years had his popular tailoring shop at 165 Main Street. His persistence, ability, and hard work have made his business flourish. He regularly takes part in affairs of the German community and is counted among the best-known and beloved members of the colony. Besides various other associations and organizations, Mr. Pries is a member of the Free Masons, the Oddfellows, and the Sängerbund. In 1862 he married Miss Louise Jacobs, who gave him 6 children. She died in 1894. Of these children 2 sons and l daughter still live. In 1896 Mr. Pries married Miss Anna Walter of Saratoga, with whom he lives in wedded bliss at 70 Triangle Street, near Pries Avenue.

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Revised July 18, 2004
Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks